Pat McDer­mott:

De­ci­sions, de­ci­sions. With years of her life packed in boxes and stacked in stor­age, Pat McDer­mott finds it hard to let go of the clut­ter of fam­ily life.

Australian Women’s Weekly NZ - - CONTENTS -

The an­tide­clut­terer

About a year ago the MOTH (man of the house) and I went for a walk. On the way home, we bought an apart­ment. “You did what?” asked the first of our chil­dren to be told. “Se­ri­ously, Mum! Who goes for a walk and comes home with an apart­ment? Most peo­ple just get cof­fee!”

The other four wanted to know how two peo­ple who take 10 min­utes to de­cide if they want milk in their tea could make a big de­ci­sion so fast. “What about all our stuff? The things in the at­tic and the garage and the cup­boards?” they mut­tered.

So here we are, the MOTH and I, at the en­trance of McDer­mott Stor­age Unit #1, just down the cor­ri­dor from McDer­mott Stor­age Unit #2. The MOTH heaved up the roller door. We could live here. There are beds, so­fas and a din­ing table that seats eight. The stor­age units hold 232 boxes – many la­belled “mis­cel­la­neous”.

In stor­age unit tra­di­tion, boxes marked “HEAVY” are stacked on top of ones marked “FRAG­ILE”. Those marked “KEEP TO THE FRONT” are be­hind the pi­ano. I sat down on Box 199 (knives, heavy blue casse­role, fry­ing pan). “What if we hate apart­ment liv­ing and in­dus­trial chic?” I asked.

“Ev­ery­body loves ex­posed plumb­ing and ce­ment,” the MOTH said, cheer­fully. He was sit­ting on Box 19 (printer, old books, scary china mon­key). “We’ll love it once we get used to it.”

A few weeks later, a copy of The LifeChang­ing Magic of Tidy­ing Up by Marie Kondo ar­rived in the mail from our son Pa­trick. “She’ll help you get rid of all the stuff you don’t need,” he as­sured me.

Po­lite­ness and mother-love kept me from men­tion­ing his two bar stools in the at­tic. “Thanks, Pa­trick. I’ll be sure to send it back when I fin­ish.”

“No, you keep it,” he in­sisted. “Kath and I are de­clut­ter­ing.”

I sat up late with Ms Kondo. Soon we were call­ing each other Marie and Pat.

“I will only pur­chase what fits me. If

I want to lose weight, I do that first and then shop.”

There’s an eas­ier way, Marie. It’s called shapewear.

“Keep only those things that speak to your heart.”

Both the china cab­i­net and the pi­ano speak to my heart. What do you sug­gest, Marie?

“The process of fac­ing and se­lect­ing our pos­ses­sions can be quite painful.”

You are so right! I’m stuck in a hard place be­tween a daugh­ter’s wed­ding dress and a son’s surf­board. And then there’s my mum’s tea trol­ley. It was a wed­ding gift. There was a fam­ily feud over re­li­gion and the trol­ley rolled back and forth on its lit­tle wheels un­til peace broke out and ev­ery­one had a drink.

You see, Marie, I’m used to clut­ter. I grew up in a house full of things the dead might need in the af­ter­life like a pharaoh’s tomb. Stacks of books, an an­cient din­ner set for 40. Sixty years of Na­tional Ge­o­graphic mag­a­zines. My ab­so­lutely favourite thing was a fox-fur stole, with head and paws at­tached. One look and you’d re­quire re­sus­ci­ta­tion, Marie. And a stiff shot of sake.

The MOTH? He grew up in a three-bed­room house with six broth­ers and sis­ters.

Their clut­ter was in a place called, “un­der the house”. Our kids would dis­ap­pear down the stairs and bring up trea­sures. Some­times their grandad joined them un­der the house.

“See that old bi­cy­cle?” he’d say. “No brakes! Your dad rode it down a real steep hill one day. Ended badly, as I re­mem­ber.

That’s why it’s so man­gled. Your dad didn’t look too good ei­ther!” Laugh? They couldn’t stop for hours.

Per­haps de­clut­ter­ing can go too far. What do you think, Marie?

I saw a sign on a ware­house once.


It made me think, Marie. I’m hang­ing on to the bar stools.

My favourite thing was a fox-fur stole, with head and paws at­tached.

To con­nect with Pat on Face­book, visit www.face­­mot­tau.

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